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Saturday, August 1, 2009

On Being An Animal Empath

I've been an animal empath all of my life. It's just that I didn't know the term "empath" until recently. I always thought that everyone felt the feelings of animals like I did. Surely everyone prayed for roadkill so that God would hold that animal in His/Her arms...right?

As a kid I could NOT watch Lassie. If that show was on in the room, even as a wee tike I'd have to leave the room. It was either that or I'd be crying my eyes out 5 minutes into the show, because surely Lassie would find herself in some sort of peril. Pain would begin deep within my stomach and it would feel as if I was the one in danger.

As an adult, I can NOT watch any PBS animal shows of any kind. I can't even watch shows on insects or fishing.

I remember when the kids were small and a friend of mine asked if I'd take them to some Disney movie about three animals who traveled together and shared all sorts of adventures. I told her I couldn't; plain as that. She looked at me wide-eyed but didn't press me for why.

I didn't seem to mind the zoo as a kid too much (probably because some of the animals lost their habitat and a good zoo takes good care of them...or at least I felt that it did...that is, the zoos I went to). I've not been at a zoo for a long time, so I shall monitor my feelings if and when I find myself at one. I'd be a good barometer if the zoo was excellent or not.

No matter what, I've always found the circus to be dreadful. I could feel the humiliation and sadness all the animals felt. Being at a circus was torturous for me. I can remember my Dad taking me to the circus when I was 7 years old. He was all excited and bought me all sorts of goodies when we arrived. Once home, I was so upset, I wrote Dad a note telling him thank you, but to please never take me to the circus again because I didn't like it. I wonder what my parents thought of that note? I do know they never questioned me nor even talked to me about it, at least that I can remember.

This brings me to what happened just a few days ago. Chris and I went to local Lake Raponda on one of the few sunny afternoons of this rainy Vermont summer to relax and to read our respective books. There were a lot of folks at the lake that day, and two boys were fishing several feet in front of us off a cement "dock." One caught a fish and couldn't get the hook out to put it back in the lake. My gut started wrenching and tears filled my eyes. The kid asked the other kid for help and when he didn't respond, I asked if I could help him. The boy shyly said no and Chris gave me the eye to turn around and not stare. Out of the corner of my eye, however, I saw that blood started to ooze from the fish and I wanted to run screaming. I made myself turn around, mentally blocked out all sound, and after ten minutes saw that the fish was gone and the boys still had their rods in the water. Awhile later, a family of ducks flew in to the area where folks were swimming. The "vibe" of the swimmers seemed OK so I settled in to read a few more pages. Before long there was a commotion from the ducks and the boys said that a baby duck had been hooked in the bill. I started to panic. Chris was going to help them but a lady, probably a mother of the boys, came over so Chris backed off. By then I was sobbing and said we HAD TO GO. The woman was successful getting the hook out of the baby duck's bill but I was already going up the hill towards our car. Chris said, "Wait Jen, it's out." I just kept going. Thankfully, Chris scooped up our belongings and we headed home.

Later that evening I said to Chris, "We cannot go back to Lake Raponda until fall, when all the tourists have gone home." He said, "I know. We'll find another place." Thank goodness I have an understanding husband.

Can you relate to any of these feelings? If so, please tell us your stories and experiences. Thank you.


  1. So glad I read this. All my life I have had extreme reactions to violence and meanness.I cannot watch any form of violence or even hear about it. I get nauseated and very upset and anxious. It is even worse if it involves animals. I am so very much an animal lover. I have had people remark how I get along with animals who don't usually like people. I prefer animals to people. I, too, say a prayer whenever I see a poor dead creature. I don't like seeing people fishing and letting the fish die. I don't like someone killing anything. I feel their pain, in a way. It hurts me emotionally. Thank you for sharing this about yourself. Now I know that someone else feels the same . God bless you. You have such a good heart. Linda Williamson

  2. I'm so happy that you found this post helpful and meaningful! From one animal empath to another, believe me, I understand. And I know there are others out there just like us. Hugs!